The World Health Organization on Thursday urged Indonesia to implement a stricter and broader lockdown to combat the rising number of infections and deaths from the COVID-19 virus, just days after the country’s president announced an easing of restrictions.
Indonesia has become one of the epicenters of the global pandemic recently, with positive cases of coronavirus jumping fivefold in the past five weeks. This week, daily deaths hit record levels of over 1,300, among the highest in the world.
In its latest situation report, the World Health Organization said strict enforcement of public health and social restrictions is crucial and called for additional “urgent action” to tackle the sharp rise in infections in 13 of Indonesia’s 34 provinces.
“Indonesia is currently facing a very high level of transmission, which is an indication of the paramount importance of implementing strict public and social health measures, especially restrictions on movement, throughout the country,” she said.
Under the partial lockdown in Indonesia, social restrictions such as working from home and closed shopping malls are limited to the islands of Java and Bali and small enclaves in other parts of the country. Large sectors of the economy that are considered critical or essential are excluded from most or some of the lockdown measures.
On Tuesday, President Joko Widodo announced the easing of restrictions from next week, citing official data showing a decline in infections in recent days, which epidemiologists say is driven by a decline in testing from already low levels.
Indonesia’s daily positivity rate, the percentage of people who get tested, has averaged 30 percent over the past week even as case numbers have fallen. The World Health Organization said a level above 20 percent meant “extremely high” transmission.
The World Health Organization said that all but one of Indonesia’s provinces have a positivity rate above 20 percent, while Aceh’s is 19 percent.
The senior minister in charge of the partial lockdown, Luhut Pandjetan, said easing restrictions could take place in areas where transmission rates have decreased, hospital capacity has increased and the “social condition” of the population has demanded that.
Indonesia, Myanmar and Malaysia have seen sharp increases since late June and have averaged for seven days 4.37, 4.29 and 4.14 per million, respectively, on Wednesday.
Cambodia and Thailand have also seen strong increases in both coronavirus cases and deaths, but have so far kept their seven-day average per million people at 1.55 and 1.38, respectively.
A variety of factors have contributed to the recent boom in many countries in Southeast Asia, including people sick of the pandemic letting precautions fall apart, low vaccination rates and the emergence of the delta type of virus, which was first detected in India, Abhishek Ramal said, Asia Pacific Health Emergency Coordinator for the Red Cross, based in Malaysia.
“With the measures that countries are taking, if people follow the basics of washing hands, wearing masks and staying away from vaccinations and vaccinations, we will see a decrease in cases in the next two weeks from now,” he said.
However, the national lockdown measures in Malaysia have so far not reduced the daily rate of infection. The country of 32 million cases saw a daily rise above 10,000 cases on July 13 for the first time and has remained at that level ever since. The vaccination rate remains low but is rising, with nearly 15 percent of the population fully vaccinated and the government hopes to vaccinate the majority by the end of the year.
-From Reuters and The Associated Press, last updated at 11:45 a.m. ET
What is happening in Tokyo
Tokyo recorded another six-month high in new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, a day before the Olympics start, as concerns grow over infections worsening during the Games. On Thursday, 1,979 new cases were recorded, the highest since 2,044 recorded on January 15.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is determined to hold the Olympics, put Tokyo under a state of emergency on July 12, but daily cases have increased sharply since then. The emergency measures, which largely include a ban on alcohol sales and shorter hours for restaurants and bars, are set to run until August 22, after the Olympics end on August 8.
Japan has reported about 853,000 cases and 15,100 deaths since the pandemic began, most of them this year. However, the number of cases and deaths as a proportion of the population is much lower than in many other countries.
The Olympics, which have been postponed for a year due to the pandemic, begin on Friday. Spectators are prohibited from all venues in the Tokyo area, with a limited number of audiences allowed in a few remote locations.
Meanwhile, African Guinea withdrew from the Olympics due to the coronavirus. The decision will ban five athletes from competing in the Tokyo Olympics. This was announced by Sports Minister Sanusi Bantama Sow in a letter addressed Wednesday to the President of the Guinean Olympic Committee. He blamed the virus and its variants.
— From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 10:35 a.m. ET
What is happening around the world
As of early Thursday afternoon, more than 192.1 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. The reported death toll was more than 4.1 million.
The Americas Faced with a pandemic of unvaccinated people, the Pan American Health Organization said it warned that countries with low vaccination rates were seeing increases in COVID-19 and reiterated the call for vaccine donations.
AfricaFaced with an acute third wave of COVID-19 infections, the African Union’s special envoy on COVID-19 said Thursday, it will begin receiving the first batch of 400 million doses of vaccines from Johnson & Johnson next week. Only about 60 million doses have been administered out of a total population of 1.3 billion so far on the 55-nation continent.
Meanwhile, Tunisian President Kais Saied said that the Ministry of Military Health will take over the management of the health crisis in the country amid the outbreak of the Corona virus, highlighting the escalation of the battle over the authorities with the Prime Minister.
The European Union It said it will donate more than 200 million doses of coronavirus vaccines to middle and low-income countries before the end of the year. That’s double the initial amount the 27-nation bloc planned to provide, primarily through COVAX, the UN-backed program to provide snapshots to poorer countries around the world.
Supermarkets, wholesalers and carriers in Britain are struggling to ensure stable food and fuel supplies after an official health app asked hundreds of thousands of workers to isolate after coming into contact with someone with COVID-19. The Department of Health said the British government is working closely with those affected sectors, with some 428,000 people being contacted through England’s Covid contact tracing and asking them to self-isolate in the week ending 14 July.
In the Middle eastSaudi Arabia said it has banned direct or indirect travel of citizens to Indonesia due to concerns about the coronavirus outbreak there, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
Israel on Thursday announced plans to allow only people deemed immune to COVID-19 or who have recently tested negative to enter some public places such as restaurants, gyms and synagogues after a surge in coronavirus cases.
— From the Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 11:50 a.m. ET